England seem likely to make the 2019 Ashes series a 2-2 draw either later today or some time tomorrow, after a good second innings batting performance secured their control of a game in which Australia by dreadful batting ceded the initiative to England on Friday. This post, written as I prepare myself for Heritage Open Day, looks at what is going on there and examines the merits and demerits of what the likely result of this match means for England. However, before I get into the main body of this post there is a small matter of business to attend to…
A CORRECTION TO MY PREVIOUS POST
On previous occasions when such has been necessary I have made it clear that it is policy on this blog not to do the equivalent of burying corrections in six point type in the middle of page 27. Therefore I am giving due prominence to a mistake I made in regard to this year’s County Championship. Somerset are indeed comfortably ahead of Essex at the top with no one else having a chance of taking the title, but I said in my previous post that they had a game in hand. This was an error – I misread the presentation of the table on cricinfo as saying that the game Essex were playing, which was still in progress, was their 13th, because their games played appeared as 12* which I took to mean that they had already played 12. In actuality the game in progress was their 12th, and I take this opportunity to correct the error. What this means is if Somerset and Essex both win their next games, Somerset will need a draw in their final match, which is a showdown against Essex to secure the title, if Somerset win and Essex don’t then Somerset will effectively be over the line with a game to spare, while victory for Essex and any other result for Somerset would make the final game a true “winner takes all” affair.
A POTENTIAL PYRRHIC VICTORY
The phrase “Pyrrhic victory” comes from king Pyrrhus of Epirus who won a battle against the then fledgling Roman empire but said when congratulated on his victory “I cannot afford another such victory”. Not many years later Epirus became a province of Rome. Why do I describe the victory that England are approaching in the fifth Ashes test as Pyrrhic?
- The Ashes are still Australia’s, so it changes nothing in that regard, while
- By giving a 2-2 series scoreline it creates an excuse for inaction on the part of the selectors that would not be there had the final scoreline been the 3-1 to Australia that cricketing justice demands, so on that ground it is a classic case of a victory that is at least potentially damaging to the victor’s long term hopes
- Several players who should probably be facing the axe have produced performances that may just save them (Buttler with two decent innings in the game, and Denly with a second innings 94 – such is the proportion of his runs that have now come in second innings efforts that he is turning into a batting equivalent of Andy Caddick, only less good, to name but two).
Thus in many ways it would actually be better for England if Australia pulled off the mammoth second innings run chase that will be facing them. There were three unequivocal pluses for England in the first three days of this game – Burns‘ first innings 47, Archer’s second haul of six wickets in a test innings and Sam Curran’s wickets (although he does not have the pace to pose much of a threat when the ball is going through straight – without lateral movement he is a blunt sword). Australia have not been at the races in the three days we have had thus far, but I acquit them of trying to lull England into a false sense of security because I am well aware that no Aussie team would ever willingly accept defeat at England’s hands – it is just happens to be the case that a poor performance here may end up helping them in the long term, depending on exactly how ostrich-like Ed Smith and co turn out to be.
Given the size of the total Australia will be facing, and the only remotely likely way they will get anywhere near chasing to down, just for the record Steve Smith needs 224 to bring his series aggregate to 975 and claim one of Don Bradman‘s records for himself.
A variation of my usual sign off. I am presenting various pictures of a full moon from a couple of days ago, one of which will feature in my 2020 wall calendar. Please use the comments to nominate your choice…